Thursday, November 15, 2018

Riga's Goodbye

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.        ~ A.A. Milne

Riga - 2004 - age 1

Last night I euthanized my 15-year-old Labrador Retriever, Riga. It was a hard decision, because she wasn't critically ill. She was, however, impaired by many pains, limitations, and indignities of old age.

Since summer, I have observed my old friend closely as one by one, Riga's favorite activities moved beyond her reach. She could no longer enjoy her daily walks. Twice each day, for so many years, we had walked together. We spent thousands of hours covering uncounted miles. Now, although she wanted to walk, she was physically incapable. I kept shortening the distance to adjust, but one day she fell. Riga looked up with pleading eyes, wanting me to fix things so we could keep going.

Riga - 2018 - age 15
But some things can't be fixed, only ended.

Riga lost her appetite and, with it, many pounds. I cooked chicken or beef to coax her, mixed soft food with her kibble, topped it with treats. But all my efforts were met with mediocre results and lots of leftovers. Towards summer's end, she sometimes couldn't get through her doggy dog in time. Riga would hang her head in humiliation. Not a fun life for a proud old girl who never had "an accident" since the age of three months.

Most evenings she would pull out her favorite toy since puppy days. But instead of playing, she'd drop it on the floor and wander away. The last few nights, I carried her upstairs at bedtime to spare her the brave, step-by-step struggle.

In past years I've put two dogs down, and both times it was during a medical crisis. That leaves you with an emergency rush to the vet's office and a sick dog dying on a cold steel table, without time for family to say a proper goodbye. I didn't want that ending for Riga.

All of her blood work was good. She didn't have cancer or any other disease--and she won't. Last week I called a veterinary service that comes to your home to euthanize your pet and made an appointment. I spent the week just enjoying time with Riga, my longtime friend and companion. My son and his wife visited the night before Riga left us to bid this special family member farewell.

Riga and I had been through so much together. We both loved Pete; we both lost and grieved him. We found comfort in each other's company as we walked on through the years, together. We watched the kids get married; we welcomed grandchildren. It was so hard for me to say goodbye.

But this decision had to be best for Riga. She deserved a peaceful end; it was the last thing I could do for her. My house is lonely now, and I'm not done crying. But I'm grateful that I found the strength to let her go.

Run free, my good girl. I'll always miss you.